Today was my third day of the march. I must apologize as it is hard to blog each day after each long march. This morning we gathered at a place near Mt. Fuji where Camp Fuji and the Japanese base are directly across from one another. As usual, I introduced myself and briefly explained my purpose here. I extended my condolences to the people of Gotemba for the threat that the bases bring with their presence. I explained that the people of Guam are in a very similar situation as the military bases continue to have a heavy impact on our people and the Department of Defense plans to claim more of indigenous land. Before we set out for our march, we sang Aoi Sorawa which talks about providing a safer place for future generations such as clear blue skies not plagued with debris from military fire.
The weather wasn’t so great as it was raining. Our starting point was significant because we marched through the road that separates Camp Fuji and the nearby Japanese base. As we descended down the steep slope, there were Japanese soldiers that followed us along the gate. It was said that they were trying to intimidate us, though we still proceeded and met their menacing demeanor with kindness and greeted them like any other. Once we descended to the bottom of the hill near the entrance of Camp Fuji, we went to Gotemba City Hall. At the front of the city hall stands a large white sign that declares that Gotemba supports the cause of nuclear abolition. The members of the city council delivered their messages of support and wished us luck on our journey to Hiroshima. They also presented Takeda-san and Tanaka-san with pennants.
Our next stop was Numazu City Hall. I introduced myself before the city council and the people of Numazu. As always, I expressed my support for their cause and offered my condolences as they have a base that occupies a nearby bay. The Numazu course was somewhat challenging as we made our trek through the rain. After marching for almost two hours, we rested at a nearby elementary school. I talked to some of the elementary students in my limited Japanese and explained that I was from Guam and I would be walking from Shizuoka to Aichi. It was funny to see their reactions as they weren’t exactly sure as to why I was walking such a far distance. Many of them repeated, “Nani kore?!” or “What is this?”
After walking for another hour or so, we reached a military base where LCACs (Land Craft Air Cushion vessel) frequent. This particular base occupies a beautiful beach and unfortunately the people of Numazu cannot enjoy it when the military conducts their training. I was told that this bay was first used by the U.S. military and is now being occupied by the Jietai. The Secretary General of Numazu gave a brief description of the types of trainings that occur at least six times out of the year. She also showed us several pictures of the training. The LCACs are hovercraft transporters for heavy weaponry and other military equipment. A citizen of Numazu shared that she lives about 1km away and stated that the noise from the military training disrupts the whole community.
This made me think of the current situation on Guam where our congresswoman proposed a bill to give the military control over public access to Riditian for a firing range. I have just found out that the bill has passed with support from many of our leaders and our governor. It saddens me that our leaders have made the choice for us again and have dismissed our concerns. This is extremely unfortunate as the Chamorro people know silence too well. Our governor congratulated our congresswoman for her bill and its support of the military buildup. Many believe that the buildup is to ensure our security and bring economic growth to our island. This however will be at the expense of more land taken and the inevitable threat to our environment. I believe the issue of militarization however runs deeper than just land and money. For me, I believe it severely affects the identity of the Chamorro people. How are we supposed to be empowered when even our leaders silence us? What does it say about our identity when we can’t even make choices about the future of our home? Without a sense of empowerment and who we are, there is always the risk that we live our lives aimlessly in a limbo sorts, never truly knowing our potential. Naturally, one would be inclined to align themselves with the power that would prevent them from feeling as the ‘other’ or second class. In this case, it is a power uninterested in preserving and honoring our indigenous culture. In no way am I insinuating that you are not Chamorro if you support the military build-up. My point is that by robbing our people of a voice, a door opens in which our people may internalize that they will never have power and are mere pawns in their homeland. Furthermore, I believe it undermines our humanity. Our governor says that this build-up means growth, jobs, and greater confidence in our future. The confidence of our people however needs to begin first with our leaders acknowledging that we are here.
Again, I extend my condolences to the people of Japan who are affected by the military bases in their cities. It is my hope that both of our people will be heard, respected, and free of military war games. GANBARIMASU! Heiwa ga ichiban desu!